Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center researchers, led by Dr. Jonathan Bricker, launched an AI-powered chatbot app called QuitBot to help more people successfully quit smoking cigarettes. Available for free on Apple and Android devices, QuitBot is a comprehensive app that uses an AI-powered chatbot to provide users personalized support to quit smoking.

Developed using scientifically backed answers vetted by scientists and experienced smoking cessation clinicians, QuitBot combines evidence-based structured conversations to guide users through the process of quitting with the flexibility of specially trained AI to answer their questions about smoking. The app differs from other smoking cessation tools by offering personalized support via mobile device whenever and wherever a user has a craving to smoke.

“QuitBot goes a step further than other currently available smoking cessation tool by offering users the ability to ask specific questions and receive tailored, scientifically backed responses,” said Dr. Jonathan Bricker, professor and behavioral science researcher in the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutch. “It’s capable of understanding user’s questions about quitting smoking and responding with clinically proven answers. This feature helps make the experience more engaging and meaningful for the user.”

QuitBot is a comprehensive quit smoking program of 3- to 5-minute focused conversations over two phases: 14 days pre-quit date and 28 days post-quit date. The conversations cover topics ranging from motivations to quit, setting a quit date, to identifying and coping with a wide range of triggers and recovering from lapses or relapses. Users can ask QuitBot any question they have about quitting smoking and it will respond with the researchers’ trained AI-based natural language technology.

“We know that quitting smoking has significant health benefits, including preventing many types of cancer, but it is incredibly difficult for people to realize those health benefits because smoking is highly addictive,” commented Dr. Bricker. “We believe that QuitBot could be a gamechanger for the many people who want to quit smoking but haven’t yet found a tool that works for them.”

Developed by Fred Hutch’s Health and Behavioral Innovations in Technology (HABIT) research group, which has more than 20 years of experience in creating and analyzing innovative smoking cessation and behavioral health tools, the tool took six years of iteration, collaboration and testing.

“Releasing QuitBot now and making it completely free is highly intentional,” pointed out Dr. Bricker. “We wanted to get the app out to the public as quickly and easily as possible to help make a significant impact on smoking and to ensure that this new technology is available openly and non-commercially.”

Initial funding to develop QuitBot was provided by the National Cancer Institute. The Fred Hutch researchers then collaborated with Microsoft AI for Good Lab, using their AI expertise to refine the conversational chat function.

Quitting smoking has numerous health benefits. In addition to decreasing the risk of at least 12 types of cancers, quitting smoking also reduces the risk for other health conditions, like cardiovascular diseases, poor reproductive health outcomes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and can add up to 10 years of life expectancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while more than half of adult smokers have attempted to quit smoking, fewer than one in 10 adult smokers quit successfully.

This press release was originally published by Fred Hutch News Service. It is republished with permission.